The Northern Arizona volleyball team makes a quick stop at home this week before heading right back out on the road with four consecutive matches away from Flagstaff over the next two weeks.
Northern Arizona will host Eastern Washington and Idaho in the Rolle Activity Center, starting with the Eagles on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Lumberjacks' annual breast cancer awareness match. NAU and Idaho will face off at noon Saturday.
"Last weekend we saw two different versions of ourselves," said Lumberjacks head coach Ken Murphy. "Offensively, we've got so many things going in the right direction and we're starting to see that our outcomes are determined by our defense. This week, we need to keep investing ourselves knowing that the more we play defense, the more we block and put pressure on our opponents, the more likely we are to have success."
Freshman Heaven Harris was nearly unstoppable last week, hitting .611 and .615 respectively against Idaho State and Weber State. After totaling 22 kills on only 31 swings, Harris' season hitting percentage now sits at .378 -- third-best in the Big Sky -- while her kill average increased to 2.48 per set.
Redshirt junior Kaylie Jorgenson continues to pace the Lumberjacks in kills at 3.48 per set as she moved up yet another spot to fourth in the conference. Her weekend included a team-high 13 kills at Weber State on Saturday on .367 hitting, marking the second straight week in which she hit a season-best.
Finally healthy, the Lumberjacks discovered consistent success on offense for the first time all season through the first four matches of conference play. NAU ranks third in team hitting percentage at .277 during Big Sky play. After hitting under .200 in their final five nonconference matches, the Lumberjacks have been efficient and effective during the first two weeks in the Big Sky by hitting .255 or better in all four matches.
Eastern Washington was voted ninth by the league's coaches in the Big Sky preseason poll. The Eagles dropped two matches on the road last week to Northern Colorado and North Dakota.
Eastern Washington is now 2-2 in conference and 5-8 overall. Ashley Seiler leads the Big Sky in kills per set at 3.94, but in conference play she is averaging just 3.19 per set. Megan LaFond ranks fifth in the Big Sky in digs with 4.30 per set overall, including an average of 4.88 per set in conference play.
Idaho finished seventh in the Big Sky preseason poll. The Vandals swept Northern Colorado to complete the second week of conference play last week, rebounding from a three-set loss to North Dakota. They have won three of their first four Big Sky matches all by sweep and hold an 8-7 overall record.
Kaela Straw leads the team with 3.47 kills per set, good for fifth in the conference. Torrin Crawford has been a force offensively, ranking fourth in the league in hitting percentage at .339, in addition to ranking second with 1.49 blocks per set.
Fans are encouraged to wear pink to Thursday's breast cancer awareness match, and the first 300 students will receive free pink sunglasses as part of NAU's Block Out Cancer match. All fans will receive free admission to Saturday's match prior to the NAU football Family Weekend game. Fans can also watch Thursday's match locally on NAU-TV while both matches will be streamed online at pluto.tv or the Pluto TV app on Channel 239.
The women's soccer team is about midway through the Big Sky Conference slate going into the weekend on the road. With an 8-5 overall record and 3-1 Big Sky mark, the Lumberjacks currently sit atop the conference standings. This weekend, the Lumberjacks will travel to Oregon on Friday and Montana Sunday to face the Portland State Vikings and the Montana Grizzlies.
"Any time we have a conference game, they are all equally as important," Lumberjacks head coach Andre Luciano said. "Portland State is very good at home and they are going to be a difficult opponent to break down."
So far this season, the Lumberjacks have been creating opportunities in front of goal, scoring when they need it most. They have garnered 171 shots, putting 72 on goal, with seven athletes in double digits for shot attempts and 11 with at least one goal this season.
Currently leading the Lumberjacks up top is senior Adrian Nixt and sophomore Malia Lyken, both with eight points. Nixt has scored two goals -- including a game-winner -- and recorded four assists and 25 shots. Lyken is leading with three goals (two game-winners) in addition to her two assists and 13 shot attempts.
Defensively, the Lumberjacks have had a change in lineup, with freshman goalkeeper and Big Sky Player of the Week Taryn Benham debuting in blue and gold for the first time last weekend. Overall, Northern Arizona has posted six shutouts, two from Benham.
This weekend Northern Arizona will first take on the Vikings Friday at 1 p.m. before facing the Grizzlies at noon on Sunday. Both games will be streamed on Pluto TV and live stats will be available.
"It's always tough playing the Grizzlies in Montana," Luciano said. "They are always dangerous, they are extremely organized defensively — they've only given up 10 goals this year — and it's going to come down to how well each team recovers from Friday's game, who comes out the most fired up for a result."